We didn’t see this one coming: researchers have found that exercise makes your eyes healthy.
A team led by researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada has discovered that aerobic exercise significantly increases tear secretion and the stability of tear film, the protective coating required for healthy eyes.
The tear film hydrates the ocular surface and protect against infection-causing irritants like dust or dirt.
It also prevents dry spots forming that result in itchy eyes, stinging and burning sensations.
“With so much of our activity tied to screen usage, dry eye symptoms are becoming increasingly common,” said Heinz Otchere, a PhD candidate in vision science at Waterloo.
“Instead of having to use eye drops or other alternative treatments, our study aimed to determine if remaining physically active can be an effective preventative measure against dryness.”
Fifty-two participants were divided into two groups—athlete and non-athlete—to participate in an exercise session.
Participants in the athlete group exercised at least five times per week, while non-athlete participants exercised no more than once per week. Researchers performed visual examinations before and five minutes after each exercise session, where tear secretion and tear break-up time were assessed.
While participants in the athlete group showed the largest increase, Otchere says all participants experienced a meaningful boost in tear quantity and tear film stability after the exercise session.
“It can be challenging for people to regularly exercise when the demand is there to work increasingly longer hours in front of screens.”
Otchere said. “However, our findings show physical activity can be really important for not just our overall well-being, but for our ocular health too.”
In addition to the aerobic exercise, bike riders have the additional advantage of airflow around the eye promoting tear function.